● North Carolina: On Monday, a federal district court declined to order special elections this year for a slew of North Carolina legislative districts that will have to be redrawn after the Supreme Court struck down the Republican-drawn maps as unconstitutional racial gerrymanders in June. This ruling is unwelcome news for voting rights advocates and Democrats, who had sought to hold new elections before next year’s legislative session, especially since these illegal maps have been in place for most of this decade.
However, the judges did order an expedited timetable for re-redistricting that will still ensure new maps are in place in advance of the regularly scheduled elections in November of 2018, rejecting Republicans’ preferred deadline of Nov. 15 of this year. The court directed the GOP-dominated legislature to produce new maps by Sept. 1, although the judges also held out the possibility of a
. 15 deadline if Republicans act in good faith to seek out public input. Either way, completing redistricting as soon as possible will give candidates more time to decide if they want to run in 2018 before the filing deadline late this year.
Following the court’s ruling, GOP legislators returned for a special session this week and held a public hearing on new maps Friday. Meanwhile, Republican state Rep. David Lewis, who is spearheading the GOP’s redistricting efforts, indicated his committee would adopt criteria for new maps on Aug. 10 and could vote on the new districts on Aug. 24 or 25.
Of course, despite the court’s hopes, Republican legislators will undoubtedly ignore public comments and proceed to draw a replacement gerrymander that they’ll claim relies strictly on partisanship, not race. We know this because Lewis explicitly made this exact claim when the GOP had to redraw North Carolina’s congressional map in 2016 thanks to similar illegal racial gerrymandering. Republicans have even hired the same consultant for the upcoming legislative redistricting, Thomas Hofeller, who drew their now-invalidated congressional and legislative maps in 2011.